Working towards your first ICO (Initial Coin Offering) project can be a harrowing experience. Besides actually developing the technology that works on the blockchain, you’ll have to actively market the token to cryptocurrency communities and seek private investors before a public launch.
A common problem that most ICO teams face is that they spend months with an expert technical team building the perfect blockchain-based technology, only to find themselves unable to tell a compelling story around their token and their ICO.
There are a few things that anyone working towards an ICO prepares before launching their token sale:
- A whitepaper detailing how their token works and the overall vision of the application
- A website to briefly explain the ICO to visitors and individual investors
- A pitch deck for private sales before the ICO begins
Developing a pitch deck that sells tokens is easier said than done and is on a whole new page when compared with a whitepaper or website.
The truth is, whitepapers are slowly becoming outdated and redundant. Blockchain whitepapers became widely popular after Bitcoin’s inception but are now gradually becoming less relevant. This is because of two reasons: Firstly, they are typically very technically worded or written more for marketing purposes. Secondly, whitepapers fail to quickly answer the questions that are truly at the top of mind for crypto buyers.
Rob May, CEO of Talla.com on Coindesk, puts it aptly:
“So, the next time you look at a token or a network, just skim the white paper. Make it a secondary factor in your decision, not the primary thing you buy on.
Spend your time instead looking at the team, understanding the big vision, researching the market opportunity, and thinking counterfactually about the possible futures of the network. You’ll make better decisions.”
This then begs the question, what should we include in ICO private sales and investor decks?
ICO decks are not very far off from regular start-up pitch decks where founders seek to raise funding from skeptical investors.
There are numerous areas that overlap:
- Proving that the team is capable and experienced enough to see through the execution
- Hinting at a high return-on-investment (ROI): a positive payout for start-up investors and token appreciation for ICOs
- Communicating immense potential for uptake and usage of product or token
- Why they should act on this immediately
That said, ICOs are far more nuanced because of the technology and considerations that cryptocurrency buyers have before they sink their hard-earned capital (in Ethereum, Bitcoin or NEO) into your token.
Here are some of the key components that make up the general structure of every ICO deck:
1. Cover Slides That Summarize Your Story
Gone are the days where it was trendy to be the ‘Uber for XYZ’. Clarity is the new currency to get your token funded. The cover slide needs to immediately hook the reader or audience to want to align with your vision and also intrigue them to continue with the rest of the deck.
A good title clearly indicates what the token or network will be used for and what it enables. Do not complicate the title. There is no benefit in confusing your potential token investor.
To ensure your title on the first page of your ICO pitch deck is concise ensure that:
- The title clearly represents your project
- Hint at the benefits that it provides to the end-user of the token, who might not always be the early token investor.
- This slide should also contain a visual representing either the end-user or a digital mock-up of the blockchain solution that you’re creating.
This is one example. The title is clear about what they want: To convey why Vaultbank will be of benefit to the target user. On the right, it then provides several brief descriptions of the benefits.
Good Title Examples:
- Switcheo: The World’s First Decentralised Exchange on the NEO Blockchain
- TenX: Spend Your Virtual Currencies in Real Life
- Kyber: Instant Exchange and Conversion of Digital Assets
2. Problem Statement
Tokens will typically continue to appreciate in value and stay that way (unless we see a crash in the cryptocurrency economy) if they have real-world application that targets a gap in the world currently. Token investors are always on the lookout for the next big blockchain project that will change the world as we know it and ‘moon’ so that they’ll see a big gain.
If your identified ‘problem’ can be solved by using a database instead of your solution – is it really a problem worth investing in? You’ll have to make clear why you’re building the blockchain application and also illustrate the magnitude of the problem.
This should be descriptive yet clear. For example, if your blockchain project is intending to replace insurers – it could be something along the lines of: Today’s Insurance Solutions Lack Transparency and Efficiency
Look at this slide’s title. Its main point is concise and clear, no complex language used.
Describe the Problem
Elaborate more on the problem to make a case for your problem statement. If: “Insurance Solutions Lack Transparency and Efficiency”, why is this happening?
Some example pointers could be:
- Insurance customers still rely heavily on agents for claims
- Inefficiency is good for insurer bottomline
Basically, support your statement with what’s happening in the industry and back these points up later with hard facts and statistics so you do not lose credibility.
Substantiating Pointers and Arguments
Your statement should then be supported by real problems that you’ve identified in your industry of choice that you’re trying to solve by using the blockchain. These can be supported by using research statistics, quoting credible sources like large news sites or influential individuals and/or showcasing other competitors in the arena that have done well, but still leave room for growth.
If you’ve surveyed a good sample size of respondents or have market data to back up your opinion, be sure to include these in summary as well.
This video of Switcheo Network CEO speaking at the NEO Amsterdam conference is a good example of illustrating problems within the general space with real examples.
3. Introduce Your Blockchain Solution
Now’s your chance to showcase your solution. You’ll want to be clear about two things.
- What is the solution?
- How users interact with it (E.g. Is it a platform that they login to? Is it an app? Or will it be used in the form of a credit card to spend cryptocurrency?)
Leave no room for doubt here as it’s critically important that your prospective investor understands how your solution can fit into the lives of those you seek to serve.
Address Problems Previously Mentioned
It helps to reference the points listed out in the problem earlier and juxtapose that with the merits of your solution. That way, investors can quickly see how your solution solves those various problems.
Show the solution
The benefit of using a pitch deck is that you can afford to include imagery to help your audience or reader fully visualize what your solution will look like. Having it mocked up is half the battle won versus not even having a proof of concept. Don’t leave it up to their imagination, show them.
This presentation by the Zilliqa team (the cryptocurrency with the highest market cap in Singapore) is a great example of explaining a complicated solution in a simple manner whilst painting the high potential of the landscape.
4.Demonstrate How It Works
Blockchain solutions are notoriously difficult to explain to non-technical people. It’s your job to make it easy yet informative for your prospective investor so that he or she can understand your token and solution.
Explaining what the solution looks like from the front-end (i.e. user experience and interface) is the first step in getting their buy-in for your product. Investors want to understand what the user sees and how they interact with your platform. Instead of using long prose, break up the example of use into a linear step-by-step process with screens or descriptions.
For example, instead of:
User enters exchange with their private key, makes their trade with the right pair and receives their currency in their wallet
Login with private key -> Trade with pair of choice -> Receive currency in wallet
For more discerning investors, they want to understand your tech. This is where most technical people shine when explaining the logic behind the solution. Problem is, these explanations are usually quite verbose and hard to understand.
Using illustrations, diagrams or flowcharts in the right sequences have proven to be one of the best ways to effectively explain a blockchain product to investors.
The key to not confusing them is to:
- Have a headline upfront that explains what the diagram is explaining, and the process involved
- Always show the users/stakeholders in the diagram prominently
- If there is flow of token usage, use animation or demark sequencing to avoid confusion
- Try to adhere to a left-to-right reading flow that most people in the world read
5.Explain Your Token
The deck will not be complete without explaining what your audiences are buying in the first place – your ICO Token. You’ll want to ensure you cover:
- How it’s used,
- How it’s earned
- How it is spent.
The slide provides a clear step-by-step explanation on the process.
The way the token moves around in the network should also be described along with how token holders can benefit from being a holder. Do they receive dividends or rewards? Does the token let them attain reduced trading fees? Or does the token allow them to spend less on acquiring a product or service?
Be clear with what the token does as there are various token applications that either work on utility or act as a store of value/proof of stake.
You should already have this in handy. Be sure to use this throughout the deck so that your investors know what your token looks like and that they know what they’re getting into. The token symbol/logo represents your cryptocurrency and is backed by the overall messaging of your other communication mediums.
This token presentation by WAX sports a really good build-up by showcasing the progression of their industry, ending with their solution sitting at the forefront. They also did a good job around the 8-minute mark explaining how tokens could be used and the benefits for holders.
Unless your cryptocurrency token is truly a world’s first (which in 2018 is still very possible), you’ll want to always try to list competitors in your space. In lucrative industries, there will almost always be competitors that exist in one form or the other even if indirect. If there are no competitors, the market is either too small or not really that lucrative.
The key to getting this slide right is to:
- Compare your application with your competitors so that investors know where you stand in the big picture
- Identify why your token is unique, superior in application and differentiates from others
- At times, illustrate that your competitors have already done well in different markets and that your solution can perform as well or even better.
The format of this can either be a table, a positioning graph with X and Y axes or a map with market sizing bubbles. It really depends on the messaging and what ties in best with your story.
Here, the key message is conveyed through providing where Switcheo stands amongst its competitors through a positioning map. The message shows that Switcheo does not compromise convenience and security – something its other competitors lack.
7.Introduce Your Team
This is one of the most important slides in your deck where you’ll want to play up the achievements, experiences and technical fit of your co-founders, advisors and team members to make a case for your token sale.
There is no hard and fast way to ace this as the makeup of every team is different. Try to identify strengths within the team even if they might come from a few individuals.
Avoid making general boastful statements like: “creator of multiple successful startups”. Always use quantitative numbers or facts to substantiate any statements
(e.g. former CEO at X, 20 years in IT)
Decide on a specific format and keep it consistent throughout team members. Advisors that need no real introduction can have shorter descriptions.
Here’s one example. The format in introducing the team is consistent. It states their position and states their experience or describe their roles.
As mentioned above, this slide keeps the introductions for the advisors short.
8.Share Your Road Map
Some investors buy tokens to HODL (Hold on for dear life) for the long-haul and not just sell immediately after the ICO is over. As such, they’ll want to know exactly what the founders plan to do and have a look at the roadmap ahead.
Marketing and Growth
Nobody wants to be the last holder of a token. Some investors want to know how you’ll continue to acquire and retain new token holders to bring added liquidity and value to tokens on sale. If you have these in handy to a notable investor who has been asking questions about your marketing plans ahead, list out initiatives to grow users with a dollar value tagged to them.
A basic linear timeline usually suffices when it comes to communicating different phases of your project along with the goals and benefits it is meant to achieve for token holders and users.
Juxtapose each phase title with descriptions of what features will be added along with what benefit they can expect. Typically, founders forecast developments up to 3 years ahead.
(e.g. Phase 2: Main Net, Secure trading for token holders direct to their wallets)
9.Plan to Finance
This is close to your end slide where you detail the distribution of ICO token proceeds as well as the important dates that investors should note for public and private sales.
If you’ve managed to convince the prospective token holder by this point, congratulations.
It’s a good time to deliver an ICO summary so that they’ll know the factors to consider in their purchase including the token price, whether there are hard caps to the number of tokens and how these will be distributed to their wallets.
Specify the following parameters:
- Hard Cap and Soft Cap Campaigns.
- Number of tokens for sale.
- Key token properties for owners.
- Platform for release.
- Base price.
- Model of the token distribution.
- Dates of ICO opening and closing.
- Distribution of tokens and key holders.
The distribution breakdown typically consists of the founding team, tokens set aside for marketing related promotions (such as airdrops), key advisors and general operation of the foundation or company working towards realising the solution. Ensuring these are broken up logically and with good reason helps to avoid dissuading the discerning investor wondering where their funds are invested.
10.Ask for Investment
Your whole presentation will be for naught if you don’t ask for the investment. List a few calls to action they’ll have to take to get onto the private sale or public sale and try to reduce the barriers to entry for ease of investing. Nobody wants to go through lengths just to invest.
Have an action statement that clearly answers the question: ‘What do I do next?’ and also incentivise quick action. Don’t forget to include contact details and telegram/medium page URLs if any so they can involve themselves in the ongoing conversation.
E.g. ‘Help us build the world’s first DEX on NEO’, ‘Join our private sale within 24 hours and get 25% bonus”
Visual suggestion: Always good to have a user depicted using the solution or a mock-up of your application to really solidify your ideas and to suggest eventual realisation.
Meandering this new world of cryptocurrency and the blockchain can be confusing when you’re trying to get traction in the initial stages. However, as with any difficult endeavour, strategies that work will leave patterns and we can learn from these successes and apply it to our own projects.